(Reuters) – President Joe Biden said the United States was on track to have enough coronavirus vaccines for 300 million Americans by the end of July, while neighbouring Mexico received its biggest vaccine shipment yet.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* The European Commission has so far approved all requests for the export of COVID-19 vaccines, including to Britain, the United States, China and Japan, since it set up on Jan. 30 a mechanism to monitor vaccine flows.
* Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to have a little more patience after agreeing with regional leaders to extend a coronavirus lockdown until March 7 and said restrictions would not last a day longer than necessary.
* Portugal extended a nationwide lockdown until at least March 1 to tackle its worst surge of infections since the pandemic began.
* Castilla La Mancha became the latest Spanish region to announce an easing of restrictions as the national COVID-19 infection rate fell to its lowest level in nearly a month.
* The Canadian province of Manitoba said it would buy 2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate that is currently in early trials, bypassing the national government.
* Brazil’s health minister said the country would vaccinate its entire population in 2021, predicting that half would be immunized by the end of June and the rest later in the year.
* Indigenous leaders in Brazil have warned of evangelical missionaries turning Amazon villages against COVID-19 vaccines.
* New Zealand will receive its first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine next week, ahead of previous expectations of receipt by the end of March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
* An opposition-ruled Indian state said it had asked the federal government to halt the supply of a homegrown COVID-19 vaccine until its efficacy could be proven in an ongoing late-stage trial.
* Thailand announced plans to inoculate 1 million of its most vulnerable people by May and start mass vaccinations in June, with the aim of administering 10 million doses a month.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* South Africa has secured millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Inc vaccines to fight the highly infectious COVID-19 variant that is dominant in the country.
* Kenya is going ahead with its plan to inoculate its citizens using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, while Zimbabwe has bought 600,000 shots from China’s Sinopharm, in addition to 200,000 China has donated.
* AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is not perfect, but will have a big impact on the pandemic, its chief executive predicted, as the drugmaker pledged to double output by April and the African Union gave its backing for the shot.
* Roche’s arthritis drug tocilizumab cuts the risk of death among patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19, also shortening the time to recovery and reducing the need for mechanical ventilation.
* Merck & Co said it was in talks with governments and companies to potentially help with manufacturing of vaccines that have been already authorized.
* Global equity indexes were mostly lower on Thursday, reversing earlier gains, with the S&P 500 dragged down by losses in Apple and Amazon.com, while a drop in oil prices weighed on energy shares. [MKTS/GLOB]
* The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week as the labor market continued to tread water.
* The euro zone economy will rebound less than earlier expected from the coronavirus slump this year as a second wave of the pandemic put economies in new lockdowns, the European Commission said.
(This story corrects first paragraph to say U.S. on track to have enough vaccines)
(Compiled by Ramakrishnan M, Anita Kobylinska and Veronica Snoj; Edited by Shounak Dasgupta, Alex Richardson and Anil D’Silva)